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Issue 111 Item 13 ADA: Artificial Pancreas Safe and Effective

An artificial pancreas without the need for injections found safe and effective. An "artificial pancreas" designed to deliver the key blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin to diabetic patients without the need for injections has been found safe and effective in a preliminary study with 10 patients, an international research team reports.

The device delivers insulin into the bloodstream when a sensor detects rising blood sugar levels. Normally, the pancreas produces insulin, but in people with type 1 diabetes the organ can’t produce the hormone. These patients must give themselves frequent insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Dr. Eric Renard and colleagues at Lapeyronie Hospital in Montpelier, France, working with investigators at Medtronic MiniMed of Northridge, California, tested the long-term sensor system in type 1 diabetes patients with relatively stable disease. The first patient received the device in April 2001, and the study lasted 6 months.

Renard presented the findings at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting last week.

He described the device as an insulin reservoir, implanted in the tissue lining the abdominal cavity and connected to a sensor implanted in the jugular vein. The reservoir requires insulin refills every month or so, he said. When the sensor detects an increase in blood glucose, the reservoir delivers the required amount of insulin.

Renard reported that blood glucose levels were controlled more than 60% of the time in the study group, compared with 25% of the time for the average patient using injectable insulin. This was a result of the accuracy of the sensor, he said.

The most difficult time for type 1 diabetes patients to keep their blood sugar levels stable with insulin injections is after a meal.

The sensor is able to keep a read on glucose levels by taking measurements as many as 288 times during a 24-hour period. The so-called artificial pancreas is "working very well" over time, Renard said.